Is Generation X only a phenomena of the American culture? Other nations, particularly those who are undeveloped, will read this issue and wonder whether they have the counterpart of this group in their societies. They may or may not, but Generation X is the largest population segment alive in America today. They are roughly described as being between the ages of 20-33.
Generation X includes college students, singles and couples in their twenties. They are best described as a disillusioned group. They dont like government control or controlling organizations. They are searching for meaning and reality in a society they see as fake.
Their parents grew up in the 60s, and Xers watched mom and dad run after possessions, status and position. Some, not all, are into drugs. Free sex is present but fear of AIDS makes them cautious. They are a lost generation! They have nothing to stand foran exiled group of millions. The articles in this issue present solutions written by those who have successfully penetrated their culture with the Gospel through cells.
As you read this issue, you will discover this group is in a desperate search for life lived in community. Satan hates community. His strategy is to cause isolation, separation and loneliness among men. Note how responsive this generation is to authentic relationships in small group settings. You will profit from reading about X cell models that work!
In D. Michael Hendersons John Wesleys Class Meeting, A Model for Making Disciples, he explains Wesleys conviction that there should be a separation of instruction from edification. They should be seen as two distinct functions. Instructional sessions are given over to teaching. On the other hand, the cells are for personal encouragement and no teaching is allowedonly intimate sharing, confessions, and personal reporting of spiritual experiences.
This is exactly what I have been saying for years. The cell group is not able to include both cognitive instruction and also edification. Both are important, but instructional sessions and edification times require very different environments.
Generation X recoils from a Sunday School teaching approach, where intimacy in the group is replaced by a teacher and content. Note the emphasis in the articles on the place of the facilitator and not a teacher guiding the cells.
Employing interpersonal dynamics in an intimate group facilitates behavioral change and reconstructs warped values. The first step is to reveal the Christ who dwells in us. This will cause a desire to know more about Him and will lead to sessions for instruction.
As you know, many of my books are based on a Sponsor-Sponsee relationship and a few weekends for intensive training. Endless training sessions by an instructor in a room once or twice a week is not necessary. This is why the Highland Baptist Church in Waco has found effectiveness in reaching Generation X. Even the cognitive input is formed through relationships, rather than by hearing a lecturer on a platform. Try ityoull like it!
Here we go again! - Believe me. Youre never too old to learn something new.
Paradigm shifts keep sneaking up on me! I recall the trauma at age 36 when I left a position with the Baptist General Convention of Texas Evangelism Division to come to Houston and plant an experimental church. I knew I could no longer be committed to the traditional form of churchianity and I had never even heard the term cell church.
Our first attempts at creating a church without walls was traumatic and challenging. I was invading the unknown. I remember how lonely I felt. My denominational coworkers did not know how to treat a renegade who left the security of the fold to find a better way to be the Bride of Christ. I used to jokingly say to Ruth, If I died, these old friends would not only refuse to carry my coffintheyd probably spit on it! Those were days when I hung a poster in my office that said, The first bird always flies alone!
Doing it differently requires not only courage to innovate: it also requires an anointing for ministry to continue against all odds. Those in the Lords vineyard who shift paradigms must know in the days of discouragement that there are no choices left when the Lord directs your pathyou just dont quit!
That first paradigm shift was not my last one! As the years have passed I have revised my books endlessly. I keep realizing that living things are always growing, changing and adapting to the environment. The cell church movement is the same. In 1970, I only knew there had to be a better way to serve the Lord than making church members audiences in a theater watching a performance on a platform.
My original experimental church changed radically after Dr. Donald McGavran came to see me, saw what I was doing with house churches and said, You need to visit Seoul and meet Yonggi Cho. I had never heard that name; when I saw his church I was awed by what I saw. He had about 50,000 members then, and I inhaled his strategy. I shifted to his paradigm and continued to adapt it.
The years that passed were devoted to creating The Year of Equipping and then The Year of Transition to help pastors called to form cell churches instead of churches with cells. TOUCH Outreach Ministries was further developed and finally placed under the direction of my son, Randall. At age 68, now on Social Security, I began to wonder if my major contribution in life was behind me. Certainly, there would be no more time for paradigm shifts in my life!
Then I visited Bogotas Mision Carismatica International in late 1996 with Larry Stockstill. I recognized there was still another awesome paradigm shift waiting for me. Not since my first visit to Abidjan to see the work of Dion Robert in 1988 had I been so deeply impacted! Cesar Castellanos had founded a cell church that reached 3,000 people in the first ten years using the geographical cell model developed by Cho. Four years ago, the Lord began to reveal a new model to him. Instead of Zone Pastors, Zone Supervisors, Cell Leaders and Cell Members, he changed the structure to emulate the way Jesus formed His cell group with twelve men. He formed a group of twelve and sent each person out to form cells built from oikos chains. Using this new cell model, he has developed 10,465 cell groups as of January, 1997 and is projecting 30,000 cells by the end of this year. Chos model has 23,000 cells19,000 among women and 4,000 among youth (he has few mens cells). Thus, by the end of 1997, the Bogota model may surpass Cho and contain the largest number of cells in the world.
Another paradigm shift had arrived! I realized I had much to learn. Pastor Castellanos extended an invitation to spend the month of October in Bogota to study his model. It has grown like Topsy and has never been systematically explained. These years of growth have caused his wonderful team to continually adjust what they were doing, and it was time for someone from the outside to explain the structure. I thought this paradigm shift would require me to work in Colombia using a Spanish interpreter. Little did I know a paradigm shift was about to happen to Cesar and his precious wife, Claudia!
As she was campaigning to run for a second term in the Congress of Colombia and Cesar moved the worship services to the Bogota Indoor Stadium, preaching to 36,000 each Sunday, a tragic circumstance occurred. About 15 armed men tied up his family and robbed them of all they owned, including the family dog. Eight days later, while driving from the Indoor Stadium with nine children in his van, he was shot four times and she once by assassins bullets.
After ten days of unconsciousness, Cesar awoke from the ordeal and showed signs of divine healing. He left the hospital in excellent condition, amazing the doctors. He firmly believes this was caused by the intercession of hundreds of Christians worldwide including CellChurch readers. Two days later, God told him to leave Colombia before his children were kidnapped or face yet another attack by guerrillas.
The Lord clearly spoke to him: Go to Houston and continue your ministry! Pastor Castellanos is now working with Houston pastors who wish to be discipled in this model. I am learning everything I can from him and the local churches who will adopt his model. Soon, I will share how this model operates in America.
Here we goshifting paradigms again! Lord, give me at least ten years of health to live through this one!
A Conference Review by Jim Egli
Was it a cell conference or a revival or both? Most participants, like me, came expecting to learn cell methods and found out they were in for a lot morenamely, spiritual renewal. The Cell Congress hosted August 28-30 in Houston, Texas, by Cesar and Claudia Castellanos was attended by approximately 1,000 participants. Other speakers included Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr., Larry Stockstill and Cesar Fajardo (who is serving as the Senior Pastor of Mision Carismatica Internacional in Cesar Castellanos absence).
Many CellChurch readers are probably thinking right now: Hey, wait! A cell conference that big? I never heard anything about it! Thats rightyou probably didnt. The conference was quickly put together, publicized and held. Initially, it was primarily envisioned to encourage and help Houston pastors. Then others were invited. Word spread and people attended from all over the United States and several other countries.
Castellanos and his team had a clear message. Revival begins not with methodology but with repentance and holiness! When we totally yield ourselves to God, His Spirit moves in a powerful way. Only then are we ready for new methods. Although methods were shared in the congress, they were de-emphasized. Spiritual renewal and spiritual warfare were the main themes. As people responded to calls to repentance and invitations to ministry, healings and miracles occurred and many were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Here are a few answers to questions you may have concerning the Groups of 12 Cell model used by the church in Bogota.
Pastor Castellanos for many years pastored small churches. In 1983 God gave him a vision that those he pastored would be as vast as the stars in the sky. Almost immediately the small group of believers that met in his home grew to 200. After several years he learned of the cell model by visiting Yoido Full Gospel Church in Korea. Using this method his church grew to 3000 members over the next ten years. Several years ago, he felt God guiding him to modify the cell model to focus on leadership development with each leader seeking to raise up 12 leaders, following Jesus example. These twelve leaders would become a more or less permanent group that meet weekly with the initial leader. Each of them would in turn seek to develop 12 leaders. This differs from the traditional cell model which has used a 5x5 oversight pattern. The Groups of 12 model also provides greater continuity because a leader is mentored and supervised by the same person indefinitely. In the past four years, MCI has grown and established 10,000+ cell groups.
Although cell multiplication happens in a variety of ways, the primary method is external multiplication. Using this method, a person remains in their original group and launches a new cell of their own. There is a strong belief in this model that every Christian can influence and lead others, empowered by the Holy Spirit and training.
There is a strong emphasis on spiritual deliverance. New believers are encouraged to attend an Encuentro (Encounter) weekend within a month after coming to Christ. This weekend helps them deal with everything in their life that holds them back from total commitment to Christ. At these weekends, persons are set free and filled with the Holy Spirit. It is followed by another weekend several months later that reinforces the victory of the first weekend and prepares the believer to be a leader.
If TOUCH emphasizes the Groups of 12 model, what will it change in OUR teaching and material? The Groups of 12 model effects two areas significantly: leadership training and cell group multiplication. TOUCHs equipping materials for believers will work well in any cell model. We may adapt our cell leader training materials in time as we learn more about the G12 modelbut we will continue to support and train with the proven methods and principles we have used over the years.
In the Advanced Cell Training (ACT) that TOUCH will be offering in 1998, the second of the four courses equips pastors to lead Enceuntro type weekends to bring spiritual freedom and empower believers (see back cover for more information).
Presently, there is nothing in print in English. During fourth quarter 1997, TOUCH Publications will be releasing a book by Joel Comiskey on cell group growth. It shares important insights from the Bogota church as well as seven other dynamic cell churches from around the world (See the Future Releases section on the TOUCH resource page at the back of this issue).
From Exile to the Cross - Reaching College Students
Twenty-five hundred years ago the children of Israel were in a real dilemma! Exiled in a land with no hope, they were a generation with nothing to look forward to. They seemed abandoned by God and others. In the middle of their seemingly hopeless situation came the voice of God through the prophet Jeremiah, For I know the plans I have for you. . . plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I believe todays Generation X is in similar circumstances, and the same call goes out to them today. As Generation X calls out to God, they will find Him, and the generation the world has labeled hopeless will turn out to be the most fruitful and faith-filled generation yet.
After one prayer time, a college junior mentioned to some of the guys in his Lifegroup that there was a party down the street and that they needed to go and witness there. Several of our male leaders reluctantly agreed to go with this fireball evangelist. There they met Steve, who recognized some of them as being from our church. As a boy, Steve's parents had taken him to church, but in recent years he had given himself to a lifestyle of partying. Over the next two months Steve was befriended and began to attend a Lifegroup. He gave his life to the Lord, and on the night he was baptized at our celebration service, his dad, who had not been in our church in years, stood up and yelled, My son was dead and now he is alive! What a picture of Generation Xthey are dead but will come alive!
Universities are full of people like Steve, a real Generation X guy. A few characteristics of Generation X are the following: (1) Though they are outwardly giving themselves to the world, they value relationship and reality. (2) They are disillusioned with the Church, its programs and institutions. (3) They are the least prejudiced generation to live in America as they have grown up in a multi-cultural, multi-racial America. (4) Uniqueness is not only O.K., but preferred, as every style of hair and clothing is in. All things considered, they are a natural for relationship evangelism and a community atmosphere. Stated even more clearly, they will make great cell members! The question is how do we reach them? Very simply, we reach them the same way Jesus didthrough relationship, love, and by challenging them with a cause.
In 1990, we began with six cells and 60 people in our college ministry. I felt a strong leading of the Lord to base our ministry on cells and prayer. Though our cell meetings were not that great in the beginning, at least we began to give people the ability to have a relationship with God and others, and not just with an organization. During that time, we saw people who were needy and wounded drawn in and strengthened. We also found that the strong people had real needs which had not been resolved. As we began to train leaders, we saw the healing hand of God in areas of sexual brokenness, broken relationships, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and homosexuality.
By the 1993-94 school year, we averaged 15-20 cells and 200 people, mainly as a result of assimilating believers and restoring lives. In 1994, however, the Lord began to speak to us about evangelism. At that time, we had section (groups of cells) prayer five days a week at 6:30 a.m. We began the 1994-95 school year aggressively focusing on the lost. What a difference it made! We began to see people saved, sometimes averaging one salvation a day.
Andrea lived next door to an apartment where a Lifegroup was meeting. She heard singing every Wednesday night and wondered what was happening, but never had the nerve to go see for herself. One night as she was listening through the wall, she heard someone in the Lifegroup praying for the Lord to bring anyone who wanted to come but was too afraid. Andrea walked next door and into the Lifegroup! She has since become a core member of the group and brings others to the group and to early morning prayer. Recently, after adding her boyfriend's name to the most wanted list of people that the group is praying for, he joined the Lifegroup. The Lord is touching him too, and he is now inviting his fraternity brothers.
After three years of aggressive evangelism, we ended our 1997 school year with 42 cells and an average of 500+ people every week in our college cells.
Every great idea will fade quickly if it isnt supported with concerted fasting and prayer. Every year we fast and pray for incoming freshmen. This spring, we fasted for 3, 5, 10, or 21 days (and some even for 40 days). We did this believing that God would touch the lives of incoming freshmen and current students, and for more power in our Lifegroups. We have prayer every morning, also scheduled half-nights of prayer, whole nights of prayer and nights of intercession for the nations.
One student whose life had been changed through Lifegroup had a vision for praying for the campus. He decided to pray every night at 10:00 on top of the on-campus parking garage. Soon, other freshmen in the Lifegroup heard about it and began to join him in prayer. Forty people were there nightly, crying out for the campus. A former gang member started coming to this prayer time and later came to a Lifegroup and accepted Jesus.
Three people have been saved as a result of the parking garage prayer. Many say that they were very moved by the dedication they saw on the garage roof. Keith, who started the parking garage prayer shared, Lifegroup and its community saved my life. A year later, the parking garage prayer is still going strong.
One of the Lifegroupsdiscouraged with the low numbers of people being saveddecided to make a prayer board to keep the vision for evangelism before the members. For every ten minutes someone prayed during the week a red pin was stuck into a board, eventually forming a cross. At the end of 150 hours of prayer, they discovered that 5 people had received the Lord!
We have weekly meetings with leaders for encouragement, on-going training, intern training weekends and discipleship within the cells to make or break our cells. Its all about people, not programs! Each Section Leader meets with the cell leaders in his or her section on a weekly basis. We give our best emotional time and energy to discipling and multiplying leaders.
We fast, pray, and share constantly with the lost. Every third week each cell has an evangelistic night. Weekly as a visual reminder, we have a dry-erase board in every cell that contains the names of people we are believing to be saved. We share salvation testimonies and baptize new believers in our celebration services. People are saved weekly and sometimes even daily.
Amber, a sorority member who called our students freaks, had no desire at all for God. At one time she had promised never to set foot inside a church. However, she became friends with one of our Lifegroup leaders, not knowing that the Lifegroup was praying that she would come to Lifegroup. One night she became depressed and got drunk. At that point she wanted to talk to her friend (the Lifegroup leader) and went to his house, forgetting that it was Lifegroup night.
She ended up staying for the entire Lifegroup and later gave her life to Christ. Amber stopped drinking and is now a Lifegroup member, regularly inviting friends to Lifegroup.
Freshmen either make or break our college cells. Every year, we focus on reaching these new students. We have pool parties, volleyball outreaches, and dorm blitzesall hosted by sections of cells. These are geared to get students invested in Jesus and cells from the beginning. Jeff came to a worship service as an insecure freshman, hoping to get back on track with following God after a wayward high school senior year. Within three minutes of entering the service, he was warmly greeted by two upperclassmen who invited him to their Lifegroup. He was amazed at the interest that was shown to him, and it continued at his first visit to Lifegroup that week. During his freshman year, he was discipled in knowing God and being committed to the Body of Christ. Now with eight years of experience in pastoral ministry through Lifegroups, Jeff serves as the college pastor of our ministry.
College students have energy with no end! There needs to be a rally point. For us, it is Sunday Night Life. In this celebration service, we have extended worship for 45 minutes, teaching for 45 minutes, and ministry for 30 minutes. We have found that this builds vision for the cells and gives a sense of rallying together for a greater cause.
We tell our students consistently that if they learn to lead and multiply cells here in the U.S., they can be used anywhere in the world. To facilitate this, we have started a mission training and sending organization (Antioch Ministries International) to equip them for a lifetime of ministry. Over 200 students have come through the training school since its inception, and we have had six church planting teams sent out to East Asia, Central Asia, Siberia, Europe, and one currently preparing for Boston. This past year we sent out eleven teams to unreached areas of the world. We consistently challenge the students to look to becoming church planters in this nation and in the nations of the world. They have an opportunity to have a lifetime investment in seeing the Church established around the world.
There are many different ways to reach this generation for Christ. However, all the media, rock concerts, bells and whistles one can come up with will never replace the simple basics of meeting their needs. If you love much, you will be successful; if you learn to build relationships with lost people, they will be saved; if your groups are accepting and not religious, the lost will come.
The way to be successful in reaching this generation for Christ is not a secret: love as Jesus loved. As we incarnate Christ to them and give them something to live and die for, we will see the emergence of the greatest generation yet.
Jimmy Seibert is the Pastor of Ministries at Highland Baptist Church. He has worked with both college students and missions since 1987. Throughout these ministries the Lord has raised up ministry training schools and four church plants in Asia. Jimmy and his wife Laura have three children. Attend their upcoming conference on Reaching College Students. 817-754-0335, Fax 817-754-0349.
There is a desperate need for this generation (those born from 1965-1983) to be redeemed and given purpose. This redemption can only come through the blood of Jesus Christ. In reality, this is the need of every generation. Because of the uniqueness of Generation X, the presentation of hope through Jesus Christ must be equally as unique.
While planting a church in Russia I saw young Russians come to understand Christ Jesus in all His glory, His forgiveness, and His ability to change lives and give purpose. This was accomplished through cell groups. It was during this time that I felt God's call on my life to minister to the people of Generation X. There I found purpose and meaning through the blood of Jesus. This generation does not need to be labeled with the undefined variable X. Purpose can and will be found in the power of what Christ has done on the cross. Generation of the Cross will be their new identity!
Beginning with fifteen people and one cell group, our twenty-somethings group (as we call it) has grown to over 100 people and 12 cells. Our focus has not only been with the single Generation X'er, but also with those who are newly married and single parents. Through these past 2-1/2 years, we have seen lives changed, marriages restored, people come to a personal relationship with Jesus, and purpose and meaning given to lives. We cannot take credit because we believe it is Jesus who has accomplished this. Here are some of the ways we have seen Him lead us:
Prayer is the single most important element in seeing God fulfill His purpose in our lives and in any ministry. Hudson Taylor stated it best when he wrote We move men by prayer alone. Prayer is the single most important element in seeing God fulfill His purposes in our lives and in any ministry. We have seen the correlation that God moves as His people humble themselves, call upon Him and seek His face. Because of this, prayer has become an integral aspect of this ministry.
Each cell group in our section has adopted a different day of the week to have Early Morning Prayer. This is usually from 6:30-7:30 a.m., 5-6 days a week, and focuses around a central topic for our generation, missions in the world, and each of the Lifegroups needs. Here we have seen the Lord bring consistent power to the Lifegroups through the power of answered prayer.
We also have monthly meetings where we focus on different areas of prayer related to our generation for 3-4 hours, called half-nights of prayer. In the past we have had what we call hot spot praying. We choose different areas in the city where there are heavy demonic influences. Forming teams of 4-5 people, we go to locations around the city where there are bars, sexually-oriented businesses, etc., and we pray around those areas. We may walk around the business (not disturbing it, of course) or stay in our cars and pray against the forces of darkness, releasing the presence of Christ. One evening we prayed in our cars outside an abortion clinic. We asked the Lord to do whatever it took to stop or prohibit the clinic from performing these abortions. Within weeks I read in the paper that this clinic's budget was being reduced drastically. We believe that this outcome was God's answer to our prayers and the prayers of so many others.
Another testimony that has encouraged half-nights of prayer started when one of our young men went to eat at a restaurant in another city. He felt particularly impressed to ask his young waitress if there was any way in which he could pray for her. He explained that he was a Christian and that Jesus Christ had changed his life. She replied that she had been diagnosed with cancer and her life could be in serious danger. He prayed a very simple prayer of healing for her. Several months ago he was in a different city at a different restaurant. A waitress approached him and asked if he remembered meeting her. He did not until she filled in the details of their last encounter. She said that after he prayed for her she had gone to the doctor. The doctor said he could not understand it, but all the cancer was gone. She remembered the prayer of that young man, and gave her life to Jesus. She has been serving Jesus since then. What rejoicing that young man felt as he saw the fruit of his obedience after meeting this woman again in a different city and different restaurant. God showed His faithfulness!
This testimony has sparked what we call waiter/waitress praying which takes place during our half-nights of prayer. In small groups we go to different restaurants for dinner with the focus of ministering to the waiter or waitress. Because we find that most waiters and waitresses are Generation X'ers, it is a perfect opportunity to see many in this generation impacted by simple prayers of faith and expressions of love by sharing Jesus ability to change their lives.
God is on the move, restoring this generation through prayer! Intercession will cause this generation to rise up in the Spirit and advance the Kingdom of God.
Without a vision the people perish (Prov. 29:18). I firmly believe that reaching this generation means giving it a cause to live for, a cause to die for. In May of 1996 the leadership of the cell groups was asked by church leadership to present a 5-year plan and vision for what we believed God wanted to do in this generation. I believe that the process involved in praying, waiting upon God, and seeking His direction and heart for the ministry has brought out a vision that is serving as a catalyst for growth. This has been incredibly effective in forming the group around one purpose, being of one heart and of one mind (Phil. 2:12). Our mission statement is: As a people loved by God, we are committed to be a generation of purpose, with a passion for Jesus and compassion for people willing to sacrifice all to see His will fulfilled in us and in our generation.
A predominant characteristic of this generation is its lack of purpose and direction. As a chemist would want to dilute a highly volatile acid with water, so the devil has tried to dilute this generations full strength purpose. Yet it is the Lord's desire to make this generation one full of purpose.
This 5-year goal and vision statement is kept before the leaders and continues to give us a target at which to shoot. In fact, all new interns receive a copy of this statement so they too may know the direction we are going. From these goals we have seen an increase in labor, prayers, and focus in the inner cities, prayer walking around certain regions of the city, fasting on behalf of those who do not know Christ both in our city and in the nations of the earth. We have also seen an increased desire in our Generation X'ers to be released in short and long-term mission work. Our vision statement has given direction and flexibility to build a wineskin that will hold the new wine. This has also produced a specific calling on many to minister compassion to the poor and needy. It has established more evangelism, through lifestyle and relationships.
One young man has had the poor and needy on his heart for years. Our five-year plan has motivated him to believe that God will use him personally in the inner city of Waco. Presently, his cell group meets on Saturdays to pray around some of the most difficult areas of the city. They have met with a pastor of influence in that area and are working together in order to meet the needs of these precious people. They look forward to being part of a wonderful reconciliation movement that will take place in our city.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
In order to reach this generation, we must be diligent, persevering, and consistent. I have often said this generation was not lost over night, neither will it be won back over night. It will take time. Yet, it will happen! One prayer that I have on my heart for this generation is, Lord, we do not consider ourselves as the mightiest, strongest, or most noble . . . we are available. Use us to see this generation redeemed. We have prayed that prayer often. About a year ago, we had multiplied several cell groups during a month period. There was much celebration, for we were seeing God's hand moving through us, answering our prayers. The next month these same leaders were talking to me of the problems and woes of being cell leaders. Nothing seemed to be happening in their cells. That day I remember understanding even more that our cell groups, our flock, our lives, and even all of life itself is like the tides of the oceans. Like clockwork, the tides come in and then go out. At one time they are low and at another, high. So it is with our lives and our cell groups. There will be low times and there will be high times. As we ride them out with perseverance and simple faith, God will move and redeem this generation. There will be seasons when we will see bursts of growth, people being changed, and souls saved; and there will be seasons when it will seem that everything is wrong and we will wonder if we really did hear Him speak. In every season, we are called to persevere. It is this perseverance that will pay off and allow Him to use us to reach this generation that has not been distorted because of one day, but actually over years. As we persevere through the test of faith, we will see this generation mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 2:4). We hold to this promise and see it as true for this generation.
Our desire is to reach out to our generation in the city, seeing lost people saved and wayward Christians brought back into the fold. We have recently been going through a series on evangelism in our Sunday morning equipping class. We liken a lost person to a piece of a puzzle that has not yet been placed in the bigger picture. We took pieces of a puzzle, punctured holes in them and tied an elastic string to each one. These were then placed on the rear-view mirrors of our vehicles as a reminder to pray for lost people, specifically for the one person we are each believing to know Christ. This focus in prayer and spending time with those who do not know Christ has amounted to neighbors hearts softening, receiving truth and love, and ultimately a harvest of souls. We have not yet seen what we are believing, but it will come. It is His will!
The spiritual baton is an analogy that I have used to speak of anointing, calling, and discipling. In a 1600 meter relay there are four people stationed every 400 meters who take the baton from one place and hand it off at the next. Every man is important and his role critical for the finishing of the race. As the one runner circles around the track to the next runner, both roles are crucialone to pass the baton along, the other to receive it. I see the baton representative of character, gifts, wisdom, and knowledge. We are called to pass that which Christ has given us to others so they, too, can pass it on.
So it is with this generation. Our forefathers are passing the baton to us to fulfill God's sovereign will and we are passing it to others. He will use any available person. Will we successfully take the baton and run with it? Will the anointing given since Jesus' day and spoken of in Matt. 28:18-20 be carried on? We are still called to go into every nation, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching others all He has commanded. The task is simple; the calling, profound. The opportunities are endless.
Our desire through discipleship is to see Christians, both those new in their faith and those mature in their faith, continuing in accountable relationships that spur one another on to righteous lives, consistent Bible Study, and a release to minister in the gifts God has given them. One young man had been part of our church for years. He knew the Bible but had not lived the Bible. He began to see the call from God clearlylay down all that you have and follow Me. Within weeks he began to give up the secular music, to abandon his double-sided living and to follow Jesus with fervent passion. Today he is a different man, with a countenance that exudes Jesus. He is one of our new cell group interns and cannot get enough of Jesus. It is obvious as he prays and shares his faith in Jesus with all those he meets.
Kevin Johnson pastored a church plant in Siberia and presently oversees the 20 - something Lifegroups at Highland Baptist and is Director of the Antioch Training School in Waco, Texas.
A New Song Is Sung at New Song! - The Four Eras of Group Life
New Song Church was founded in 1986 by Dieter and Val Zander. Known from very early on as the flock that likes to rock, New Song quickly found tremendous appeal among college and single age kids looking for a church that spoke their language, played their music, and dealt with their needs. Though they had no accepted demographic label, New Song met a need for the people in between.
New Songs vision statement is to make fully devoted followers of Christ, mostly out of Generation X and their families, through multiplying groups, and churchesall over the place! Below are some things we have learned and lessons from the journey!
At New Song, we have gone through four eras of group life:
Baby Busters, the earliest demographic term for this generation, need no arm twisting to gather in groups. Organized or unorganized, they will find their way to each other. Small groups have been a primary value at New Song since its inception and Xers enthusiastically embraced a small group lifestyle.
Before long, we realized that our groups needed to get organized for church growth. We used the Meta model to map out the structure of our church and began identifying coaches to help give guidance to group leaders. It was at this time that New Song first invested in a full time Minister of Care Groups. At the time, I was working with outreach ministries.
After reading Where Do We Go From Here? we became passionate about becoming a cell church, not just a church with groups. Not content with simply being organized to grow, the cell church concept addressed the needs of our postmodern Gen Xers in many profound ways. We also saw cell life as a means to train and develop church planters and missionaries. We were sold!
This is where we are now. We are still becoming a cell church by developing Xer-sensitive equipping, resources, and a simple and transferable framework. All this enables groups to launch, develop and plant new, healthy groups. This happens as leaders and apprentice leaders receive what we call on the job/just in time training.
Community is a crying need for Generation X. Due to the breakdown of the nuclear family, the lack of safety in our nation and the disintegration of trust in major institutions, Gen X is looking for a people to whom they can belong and feel safe.
With this in mind, we have found that our groups must be a lifeline, not a program. What kind of community do Xers crave?
A community characterized by reality, not superficiality. It deals with real life issues in an authentic way without holding back.
A community that wont abandon them, one that stays together. This of course is not consistent with cell church principles. We have found that as groups plant from one another, theyve got to stay clustered together as sister groups and occasionally gather for unified worship, ministry, and fun. These are key factors as groups plant. It has also been effective to talk groups through a life cycle of group life, suggesting that when a group decides not to plant, they are likely to stagnate and die a slow awkward death. Planting new groups keeps the group alive.
A community in which God shows up. This often happens in the time of worship. But keep this in mind: Xers value music and so they often think of worship in its musical form. Because it is rare for most groups to have the quality of music they get in church or off some new rock CD, they may avoid worship time in groups. Help them to discover other forms of worship: setting the mood with candles, soft monk music, times of silence, creative use of prayer, the Psalms, and the attributes of God, reflective readings from devotional classics, art (poetry, painting, and music), etc. Help groups to brainstorm creative forms of worship that use all five senses. Taking time to pray for one anothers needs can be a form of worship with a huge impact. Using the laying on of hands while praying makes the touch of God very personal in times of need.
A community that makes a difference. Without doing it for them, we help our groups to involve themselves in Outward Focus Experiences. Whether its handing out flyers to events at a rave or serving at a homeless dinner, there is a desire to move beyond themselves. In addition, we have discovered Xers will be consumer-isitic in a group unless challenged and invited early on to make some kind of ongoing contribution. Once they get started serving one another, they will have a longing for this truer form of community.
Organization and leadership are unattractive to Gen Xers. If something is too polished and well formed, it just doesnt appear as real or authentic . . . and if its not real or authentic for Gen X, its phony, empty, and useless. With this in mind it may seem contradictory that we ask our groups to follow the organized agenda below:
*Connecting Time - approx. 15 minutes
*Worship Time - approx. 30 minutes
*Equipping Time - approx. 30 minutes
*Edification Time - approx. 30 minutes
*Vision Time - approx. 15 minutes
But we have found that using this agenda planning framework can actually open the door to an authentic, spontaneous, exciting flow within the group. In our training, we show potential leaders how to make the elements of the agenda flow together though the creation of a common theme. This structure then becomes empowering, not restricting.
Because Xers resist putting themselves into positions of leadership, we have chosen to call our leaders facilitators to indicate that they serve among one another, rather than above the others. Their assignment is to get mutual interaction going, rather than being a top down kind of leader-teacher. This allows for multiple giftings to serve in the facilitator role.
Generation X is looking for clear boundaries and authority with integrity. The equipping time is important in our groups. This generation grew up with very few boundaries, so they are looking for some clear direction. But in this postmodern age, those who create learning experiences around the authority of Gods word must do so with personal integrity, not coming across as an authoritarian.
We also recognize that since our groups are not meant to be Bible studies, that an equipping track must be in place. We are now putting in place an approach called the Spiritual Growth MOSAIC for this purpose. February, June and September are being designated as MOSAIC months. During this time, groups stop meeting and attend various training events (ideally . . .) together. This then empowers them with new vision to grow, serve, meet with God, and when they again gather to make more and better disciples.
Xers need a special kind of training along with mentoring. One person said to me, Sounds like you try to train your Xers so they dont know they are being trained. This is sort of true! Our training is simple, using one page modules instead of classes and books, and is put in the hands of the right people. Weve given the coaches tools to train the facilitators and facilitators get tools to train their facilitators-in-training. It also happens in the context of relationship (so important!) rather than at a large group meeting. But Xers will want to know, why all the training? Show them that it will make a difference in their world, among their friends.
5. Generation X is broken and needs assistance helping the really broken people. Paralleling our EXCell groups (the new name for our cell groups) is an ongoing selection of support and recovery groups. These short term groups are not just for deeply hurting people, they are for anyone wanting to grow.
It has been effective to have these groups as resources to our cell or basic Christian community groups. People may find on their own, or at the leaders gracious suggestion, that they need to temporarily leave their group for a support group only to return more eager than ever to contribute to their cell.
1. Dont call Xer Groups Care Groups. We did and now its difficult for our groups to see themselves as something more than that.
2. Dont assign meaningless paper work to Xer groups. We required a weekly Pulse Sheet at one point, but found that if it wasnt tied to a faithful coaching relationship, it was meaningless and was therefore resisted by group facilitators.
3. Dont make Gen X groups do anything. Instead, we prepare the most effective resources and make them available when they need them . . . and not before! For example, we have written agendas and transferable resources to help our groups at various points in their life stage. These and other resources are considered a provision to develop healthy groups. Groups arent required to use them, but they are available if (and more likely, when) a facilitator needs a resource that will help them.
4. Challenge healthy Gen X groups to plant. If you dont, you just multiply your problems. Encourage the healthy facilitators to plant new groups often and learn from their success for your weaker groups.
5. Eagerly pass on the vision for edification to Xer groups. Understood through experience (in a group, at a training event, or as modeled by a coach), this brings Xers to life. On a human level, they struggle to know how to build up one another through the use of spiritual gifts...but once theyve tasted it and learned how to make it happen (with the Spirits help, of course), it meets incredible needs in Gen X groups.
6. Encourage Xer groups to make the Bible their central text. While avoiding the idea that groups are Bible studies, they should also avoid focusing first on felt needs like marriage, parenting, singleness, etc. These issues will come out in a group, but they should emerge as a result of time in Gods word and in the context of mutual edification.
Xers love groups. They will invite their friends to a real, alive, spiritually in-touch group. Because they are sooooo busy (or at least think they are), keep training and reporting requirements simple for Xer leaders and keep the church calendar relatively light so Xers can make it to their group. Regarding planting: it may take 12-24 months before groups plant. Along the way they must be allowed or encouraged to grieve, while at the same time encouraged to stay connected as future groups.
Paul Kaak is Pastor of Group Life and Mobilization at New Song Church, an emerging cell-based church in San Dimas, CA., reaching the postmodern generation. Paul is married to Kieva and oversees New Songs full and part-time Group Life Staff and interns. He is also involved in training Generation X church planters and missionaries using a cell-based model.
Obstacles to Growth - The Eight Essential Qualities of a Healthy Church
The findings of the most thorough study to date on the causes for church growth led to an amazing conclusion for Christian A. Schwarz and a team from the Institute for Church Development in Germany. The three year study, translated into 18 languages, received responses from 4.2 million people, from more than 1000 churches in 32 countries located in five continents. It included data completed by 30 members from each participating church dealing with the question, What are the essential qualities of a healthy growing church, regardless of culture and theological persuasion?
Christian and his team discovered that just as crops grow all by themselves if the obstacles are taken out of the way, churches grow when obstacles to growth are removed. Jesus said, The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed on the ground, and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows - how, he himself does not know. The earth produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, and then the mature grain in the head. (Mark 4:26-28).
This research project revealed eight Biblical qualities for a healthy growing church.
(1) Empowering Leadership - Leaders of healthy growing churches concentrate on empowering other Christians for ministry. They do not use lay workers as helpers in attaining their own goals and fulfilling their own visions. Rather, they invert the pyramid of authority so that the leader assists Christians to attain the spiritual potential God has for them. These pastors equip, support, motivate, and mentor individuals, enabling them to become all that God wants them to be.
(2) Gift-oriented ministry - The role of church leadership is to help its members to identify their gifts and to integrate them into appropriate ministries. When Christians serve in their areas of giftedness, they generally function less in their own strength and more in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary.
(3) Passionate spirituality - Are Christians in our church on fire? Do they live committed lives and practice their faith with joy and enthusiasm? A few weeks ago I waited in line for more than eight hours for the doors to open at the Brownsville Assembly of God Church facility in Pensacola, Florida. When the doors opened at 6 PM, there were too many people in line in front of me to get a seat in the main sanctuary. I ended up in the chapel next door perched in front of a video screen. People were so hungry for God. At the end of evangelist Steve Hill's sermon, hundreds of people literally ran to the altar to get right with God. Many of them were Generation Xers. The Lord is restoring passionate spirituality to His church in our day.
(4) Functional structures - There are those who believe structure and life are opposites. Both are needed. Biological research reveals that dead matter and living organisms are not distinguished by their substance, but by the structural relationship of the parts to each other. Whenever God breathes His Spirit into formless clay, both life and form spring forth. When God pours out His spirit within the church today, he gives it structure and form. New cells are flexible structures for the new life He is bringing to our churches.
(5) Inspiring worship service - Is the worship service in your church inspiring? Cell churches who minimize anointed worship services are shooting themselves in the foot. Paul taught publicly, and from house to house (Acts 20:20). We need both!
(6) Holistic small groups - Christian Schwarz stated, If we were to identify any one principle as the most important, then without a doubt it would be the multiplication of small groups. They must be holistic small groups which go beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying its message to daily life. In these groups, members are able to bring up those issues and questions that are immediate personal concerns.
(7) Need oriented evangelism - we are all called to use our gifts to fulfill the Great Commission. Each Christian must use his or her gifts to serve non-Christians with whom one has a personal relationship, to see to it that they hear the gospel, and to encourage contact with the local church.
(8) Loving relationships - Growing churches possess a measurably higher love quotient than stagnant, declining ones. Healthy growing churches practice hospitality as believers invite others into their homes as a normal part of their Christian lives. People do not want to hear us talk about love, they want to experience how Christian love really works.
Each of these qualities are essential for a healthy growing church. Take a quick evaluation of your church and your cell group. Are there obstacles to be removed to experience healthy growth? The engine, carburetor, and transmission of your car may all be working fine, but if you have a flat tire, you must remove this obstacle for your car to function properly.
Whether we are focusing on reaching boomers, busters, or Generation X, the cell-based church is an ideal model to experience these eight qualities. However, it takes more than being a cell church. All of these essential qualities must work together!
[Excerpts taken from Natural Church Development by Christian A. Schwarz (ChurchSmart Resources) 800/253-4276, 630/871-8708, firstname.lastname@example.org]
Editors Note: Buy this book!
End of Issue
|Volume One - 1992||Volume Two - 1993|
|Volume Three - 1994||Volume Four - 1995|
|Volume Five - 1996||Volume Six - 1997|
|Volume Seven - 1998||Volume Eight - 1999|
Contents © Copyright 1999 by TOUCH Outreach Ministries, Inc.